Get your move on: How to get and stay physically active

Regardless of our size, age, or stage in life, physical activity helps us lead healthier lives. Physical activity contributes to our overall health and well-being and has a direct impact on our mental well-being.

Years ago, many people lived healthier lives by default. Meals were homemade, dinner portions were reasonable portion sizes, and vegetables were served with almost every meal. Caregivers escorted their children to and from school, and the children played outside until the streetlights came on. Eating fast food was an occasional indulgence, and snacking between meals meant eating fruit.

Today we see an opposite trend. Parents are very busy while the kids are busy with extracurricular activities. Dinner is impromptu, with fast food up to four or more times per week. Families are eating fewer home-cooked meals together at the dining table, and junk food between meals can now be nibbled at will.

In most cases, trips to and from school have been replaced by car and bus travel. Rest and relaxation time is spent with video games, smartphones and binge-watching TV programs. In essence, we have evolved into less healthy beings who experience more stress, eat less balanced meals, and exercise less.

It’s important to note that physical intelligence is much more than weight when it comes to height or body mass index (BMI). It’s about intentionally moving our body so that it keeps us moving. There is strong scientific evidence that people who maintain reasonable levels of physical fitness are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and have a reduced risk of developing many long-term chronic conditions, such as heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that with just a few lifestyle changes, we can live healthier lives and not have to pay for a gym membership or climb Everest on a weekly basis. We already have the tools we need and must use our willpower to make it a daily priority. It’s time to take responsibility and make changes to live better.

If possible, get the family involved. Family support and involvement helps keep the momentum going. Plan fun fitness activities together that all family members can do on a daily basis. Create fun, healthy challenges and rewards for trying. When families are active together, they not only share valuable time, but also influence children’s lifestyles.

Then let’s shift our focus from just losing weight to other healthy habits, like eating healthy and exercising more. Awareness is the key to success in this goal. If we’re looking to get in shape, a “good” day of exercise or the occasional strain at the gym isn’t going to make us fitter. Moving our body persistently and consistently will improve, while every small step helps.

Consistency also signals what works and what doesn’t work. We sometimes ask ourselves how things are going for us. If we’re not happy with our results, it might be time to make some changes. Let’s stay motivated and challenge ourselves until physical activity becomes second nature.

Using a gym membership is a great way to stay physically active. For anyone who may not be able to use this service, getting and staying in shape on a budget is possible. Be creative! Get together as a family and share ideas to develop a physical activity schedule. Consider the following:

1. Take regular family walks

2. Join or create an outdoor/indoor yoga class

3. Riding a bike

4. Go swimming

5. Skipping rope

6. Creating a new dance routine

7. Do jumping jacks

8. Power walking with weight jugs filled with water or sand

9. Frisbee and ball games

10. Take the stairs

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